Experts defend NICE against attack by US politician

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 23 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1087
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1London

    Commentators have defended the work of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) after a newspaper claimed that the White House was backing large drug companies in their efforts to have unrestricted access to the NHS as part of a free market.

    The US deputy secretary for health, Alex Azar, who met officials in London last week, said that mechanisms such those of NICE for rationing drugs to keep costs down stifle innovation, the article in the Guardian reported (14 Nov, p 1). Allowing all new drugs to be used in the NHS would result in drug companies “fighting it out” on price, he said, which would cut drug costs.

    The drug companies have themselves repeatedly lobbied ministers for NICE to be reformed and to allow their drugs to be made available on the NHS more quickly.

    In his interview with the Guardian Mr Azar said he recognised that healthcare costs in all rich nations were rising while budgets were shrinking as the population aged. “On the other side we have to focus on long-term …

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